The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) is an organisation committed to maintaining the constitutional right of communities in South Africa to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing.
This Cape Town-based non-profit organisation offers environmental litigation, advocacy and activist support and training for organisations and vulnerable communities that lack access to legal knowledge or support for environmental and climate justice.
The vision of CER is to remain sensitive to South Africa’s history of injustice, by shifting exclusionary structures and empowering communities and organisations towards equality and a healthy environment for current and future generations.
It also recognises the importance of women’s influence in decision- and policy-making roles in environmental activism. Research shows a link between climate change, women’s rights and gender-based violence (GBV); the impact of climate change exacerbates systemic gender discrimination and patriarchal dynamics. Women in rural communities are often vulnerable to GBV when they have to travel long distances to retrieve resources such as water when the immediate environment is damaged.
In 2019, CER represented groundWork and Mpumalanga community organisation Vukani Environmental Justice Movement (VEM) in the #DeadlyAir case, demanding that the government clean up toxic air caused by coal mining in the Mpumalanga Highveld region. In March this year, the high court recognised the poor air quality as a violation of residents’ constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing. The judgement passed was a triumph for groundWork and VEM, the pursuit of environmental activism for CER — and all such affected communities.
The non-profit aspires to: “A just, equitable, compassionate society which is resilient, celebrates diversity, and respects the interdependence between people and the environment, where environmental and climate justice is realised and all people and the planet flourish.”
The impact of climate change exacerbates systemic gender discrimination and patriarchal dynamics